Q: What’s the difference between a “Victory Garden” and a home or kitchen garden?
A: Naturally, the gardening nuts and bolts are the same…the difference is found in our collective intentions. By using the term “Victory Garden,” we demonstrate a shared sense of purpose…a desire to overcome challenges such food and fuel scarcity issues and climate change by drawing upon our patriotic gardening heritage. Moreover, we gain the ability to frame our united efforts in an attractive way that encourages more people to take action.
(Note, too, that a Victory Garden can be established anywhere: your home, work, school, church, or community.)
Q: Why do you call it a “revival”?
A: Because that’s really what it is. During WWI & WWII, Americans took shovels and trowels in hand to ensure food quality and reduce transportation costs through a national gardening movement. Initially called “war gardens” or “liberty gardens,” the term “Victory Garden” was eventually settled upon and caught hold in popular imagination. The notion, coupled with evocative patriotic artwork commissioned by the government, proved highly motivating. Reports suggest that, by the mid-1940s, there were more than 20 million home gardeners whose plots yielded 40% of the nation’s produce.
Imagine if we did that again. Right now.
As it happens, a quick web search will reveal that an informal grassroots Victory Garden revival movement is already underway. Bloggers and others have been calling for the revival for at least a couple of years. There’s also mounting evidence to suggest a rise in home gardening in general. Fortunately, the mainstream media has begun to pick up on these trends, particularly as our struggling economy forces people to look once more to their own yards as an affordable food resource. Meanwhile, many communities have recommitted recently to educating their citizenry on how to grow produce at home or in community plots. And then there’s the fantastic new garden at The White House, the creation of which marked a watershed movement in this incarnation of the victory garden concept.
These developments, while laudable, are only a start. To truly see this movement reach fruition, we need involvement at every level in every American community.
Q: Why “Victory Gardens”? Aren’t the war connotations negative? What about another name? “Peace Gardens,” maybe?
A: This matter will undoubtedly be parsed through by some folks. Actually, we happen to feel that a respectful discourse about the movement’s name is good…healthy even.
However, we’re frankly partial to this response by leading VG-proponent Amy Franceschini: “I wanted to keep that word ‘victory’ because we are in a time of war, [but] we should change what that word means so that victory should mean self-reliance and independence from corporate food systems.” (“Victory Gardens Revive World War II Project, with a Modern Twist,” Dallas Morning News, 29 February 2008).
So, ”Victory” is a multi-dimensional term in the case of sustainable gardening. What you personally choose to direct your efforts toward is up to you. Currently, there seems to be a common desire for victory over food insecurity, fuel scarcity and climate change. And, again, we areindeed at war right now. Most importantly, because the phrase “Victory Garden” has positive connotations for so many Americans who participated in the earlier efforts (or recall their older family members talking about it), there’s much to be said for promoting a renewed sense of commonality by using the term.
For a playful take on the garden name game, click here.